Insert Epic Space Opera Here
By Master of the Library And Mei1105
Chapter 1: That's No Moon!...That's a Sun!
Adrian was one with the universe.
Not literally. Overall, that was an insurmountable task even for gods and doing so kind of defeated itself-if you were one with the universe, then what left would you have to do? All tasks would be fulfilled, all knowledge would be known, all secrets revealed and everything would be you and so nothing would be different because it was you and you were it. Sure, achieving oneness with the universe was the ultimate goal of a lot of different religions, but it was an impossible goal since achieving it was paradoxical. Becoming the universe itself was a end that led to a start of nothing but eternal boredom.
Or the fact becoming one with something so incomprehensibly diverse, vast and massive would strain a mind to far beyond its limits and you'd collapse into a gibbering wreck of a shattered self or the universe would simply subsume you and you'd cease to exist or have awareness.
Such a pleasant set of options, really.
But, no, Adrian was one with the universe in a meditative sense. He had lost ability to sleep regularly centuries ago and so to avoid the lack of sleep straining his mind to insanity, had sought a group of monks who taught him a style of mediation that relaxed the body and mind. It was enough that two hours of this mediation meant that he had the equivalent of eight hours rest. So at this moment in time, his mind was relaxed and diffused enough that he was simultaneously aware and unaware of himself and his surroundings-if reality was a heart monitor, then Adrian was barely a noticeable blip.
He wasn't even in what most people would consider a meditative pose. He was in fact on his side, undressed and buried under the blankets of the bed in the Manta's cabin, kitty ears completely still for once and his tail swaying hypnotically slow and fluidly. His eyes were closed and had one looked upon him now, he would have seemed a statue and many would say that his meditations must be deep and profound, for him to have quieted his mind so.
His girlfriend, equally naked and sprawled over whatever part of the bed Adrian did not occupy and drooling slightly into her blonde locks, would have said that he should really stay out of the chocolate catnip.
Adrian was dimly aware of time passing on the outside-most of him was quiet and near-still, his awareness and self moving like water in a soft breeze, leaving no ripples yet constantly moving.
Whatever little of him was active was focused on the 'feel' of things around him. As with most beings who were on or above his power level, you tended to get a sort of feel of the universe as a whole. Not consciously, but a seventh sense that let you know when something amazing or horrible happened to the universe. It was comparable to ordinary people 'knowing' when something bad was about to happen or knowing exactly where someone else was despite distance or space between them. Not quite a skill, not quite an instinct.
Ever since Runoa (he didn't care if she was his mother. If she was, fine, it didn't change anything. If she wasn't, it still didn't change anything. She hadn't raised him or known him and with all the years between his birth and now, it was about an important a fact as what Tash had had for breakfast that morning.) had made her moves to grab for power, he had gotten the feeling that the Multiverse was...off...like a globe that off by half a hair on it's axis. She was just any number of beings he had fought and encountered during his tenure as a Counter Guardian and Librarian and none of them had caused this feeling. The active portion of himself ruminated that it could be of her nature as a Sue and that of her Sovereigns, but it was unlikely. Perhaps it was not something she was, but what she was doing. Something that would push the Multiverse off by that hair's breadth...
The mental shriek slammed through his mediation like it was a freight train. He snapped instantly to full awareness, fluidly leaping out of bed and silent onto his feet, battle-ready for anything. But then the desperation, the fear, the pain, the sheer love and twisted hope of the shriek hit him a punch to the gut. It knocked the air out of him and the Librarian dropped to his knees, folded over and panting.
After a moment, his mind sorted itself out and spat out the name of the cry's owner. "Phoenixia..."
But she had been gone for three days now. And despite having the Library run a search program, it was big Multiverse. And all the divination and location spells he had tried had turned up zero results as well. And he'd still be searching if Tash hadn't convinced him to take a private vacation with her on the Manta for a day or two, just to get away from things.
So was that shriek he had heard real or just his the fact because it was the first time meditating since her disappearance and it was his mind sorting itself out? It had definitely felt real...but so did some of the voices he heard in his dark moments and just because his heart could be tricked didn't mean his rational mind could be so easily.
But he had experienced this kind of thing before when dealing with telepaths and possessions and with Phoenixia's help, had devised a scanner that would tell you if something like this was real or figment of the mind. A bit over dramatic and perhaps a bit paranoid, but at his age, he should be allowed to be somewhat paranoid of things.
So where was the scanner? His brow furrowed as he thought, trying to remember. He had heard that cackling laugh several times, gotten a hold of Phoenixia and she had...she had...
Sharp pain bolted through his head and he winced, nearly losing his balance. He reached for the memory again and this time staggered from the pain and then lost the memory.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and this time dug into his memory again, slowly and carefully. He could remember Phoenixia, who she was, what she was to him and the others, what she did for the Library and the Society and the fact she had a garden...but any more specific memories were out of his grasp and blurry, indistinct. Reaching too hard for them sent bolts of pain through his head and they just weren't there even past the pain.
Why couldn't he remember?
The Librarian slipped into his underwear and pants and quietly made his way out of the cabin and up the stairs to the Manta's bridge, trenchcoat silently floating off the ground and chasing after him. Slipping the garment on, he gave a soft grin as he felt a few of the buttons missing. Tash certainly had been impatient...
The bridge's consoles hummed quietly in standby mode, the noise making an ear twitch before the Librarian spotted the reason he had come down here. Tash's laptop sat tucked away in a corner, the light on the front fading in and out softly, indicating it was in sleep mode.
Pulling the device closer, he flipped the lid and waited until the screen lit up. Quickly getting around Tash's password, he brought up an internet browser. A few dozen-rapid fire keystrokes later and he had gotten where he wanted to be-the laptop's connection to the Library's primary computer and a couple of more keystrokes brought the voice-controls online, as well.
"Computer." He spoke for nearly a minute in over half-a-dozen languages that anyone would be hard pressed to hear properly, let alone speak. "Report on status of Connection 000."
A long minute as the computer did a self-check faster than the speed of light and then a neutral female tone emitted from the speakers. "Connection inactive."
Adrian felt his heart sink to somewhere around his ankles. That connection, accessible only to him and Phoenixia, was her connection to the Library's Computers and wasn't even a connection-it was her and she was it and calling it a Connection was simply how the computer understood itself. If it was inactive, then Phoenixia was either unable to somehow connect to the Library or was gone...
The Librarian wasn't stupid. After fighting that twisted being...Crickette, that was her name...and Phoenixia's disappearance shortly afterwards, with Runoa in the area. It was very likely that Runoa had taken Phoenixia and was going to do something with her. And it was equally likely that Phoenixia simply had fled to try and deal with the problem herself...but she couldn't just shut her connection, anymore she could just will herself to stop breathing.
"Computer, what is the last time Connection 000 was inactive and how long was it inactive?"
Another long minute. "Three standard Library days ago, for approximately 45 minutes."
During the time Crickette was active. So Crickette didn't have access to the Library's computers, despite being in Phoenixia's body and part of Phoenixia's mind...didn't have access or didn't have access yet.
He sighed and felt himself wilt inside. If Phoenixia was missing or not in control of herself, then he didn't have much choice. They had sworn to each other centuries ago to do whatever it took stop the one another if one went evil or lost their mind or even a situation just as this. And Phoenixia, who had access to every last drop of information of the Multiverse in her databanks, then that potential threat had to be nullified.
Even if it meant costing Phoenixia her home.
Adrian sighed again and then reached up, his hand vanishing into a dimensional pocket. After rummaging for a second, he pulled out a small white flash drive, barely longer than his thumb and with guts more advanced and powerful than any of Real Life's Earth technology would be in ten thousand years.
He plugged the small stick of plastic into the appropriate slot on Tash's laptop and then watched as the screen suddenly blacked out, only to fade into white with a black phoenix outline in the center of the screen and a white cross in the center of the image.
"Computer...initiate Judas Phoenix Protocol."
"Acknowledged." A beep and then the screen flickered once. "Judas Phoenix Protocol initiated."
Sighing to himself and offering his longtime companion and lover a silent apology, Adrian flopped down into the pilot's seat, staring out the viewport.
Before the ship was a not a massive star, but the halves of one. Far enough apart to see them distinctly at a distance was hundreds of kilometers, they were large enough that their auras of flames, gas and more blended together in a maelstrom between, a titanic cloud of radiant and ionized gases. The ship was far enough back that one could see the entire thing and close enough that the suns' flames were visible without magnification. The entire was absolutely beautiful sight or dozens of shades of dozens of colors and all mixing and swirling and shifting like they were alive. Against the vast bleakness of space, it was a monument to the beauty of the universe and how the accomplishments of those who lived in it where nothing compared to what the universe itself.
And the sight didn't do anything to improve his mood.
"Could you do something like that?"
Adrian blinked and turned, to see Tash standing in the bridge's doorway in naught but a sheet. "I didn't even hear you come up."
"Can't hear someone floating..." Tash stepped farther on the bridge, nodding at the sight in front of her ship. "Well?"
"What? Oh, right." The Librarian smiled and shook his head slightly. "I suppose I could, given some time and preparation. Certainly powerful enough...but this one was caused by a Sith Lord. He was being chased by a Republic fleet and in his desperation to escape them, he reached out with the Force and pried the sun in front of him apart like it was a piece of fruit...then smashed the halves back on the fleet when they tried to follow him."
Tash whistled appreciatively as she sat down in her boyfriend's lap and snuggled. "Impressive."
"Yes, it's one of the more ludicrous Star Wars stories about the power of the Force, but it does make for a nice story..." Adrian smiled softly and put on a faux serious accent. "Luckily for this kitty, size matters not. Nor do physics."
The blonde giggled as Adrian reached out with a hand, magic reacting to his will as he snared some of the gasses bleeding off of the maelstrom. Concentrating slightly, he pictured an image in his mind and then projected it out, watching as the gasses began to bend and mold themselves to his image.
"I...love...you..." Tash read aloud, then laughed and blushed. "Certainly better having my name up in lights..!"
As a small solar flare burst free of the side of the sun, Adrian's focus shifted to it again, and it swirled into the shape of a phoenix, soaring around briefly before disintegrating.
Tash giggled. "Show off," she said good naturedly. She squeaked as he pulled her down for a long kiss.
"Mmm...come on," she gathered the sheets tighter around her body and took his hand. "Its cold in here and unlike you, I don't have any clothes on."
"You're complaining?" he asked, as they got up and exited the cockpit. "I thought you liked being naked for me?"
"Of course. The bed's just warmer."
Adrian chuckled as she marched back into tiny cabin and flopped dramatically onto the mattress. She gave a wolf whistle as he stripped off his clothes once more. He let out a purr, and blushed as he realised she had sneaked forwards enough to wind his tail around her wrist.
"Mine kitteh," she said, squeaking as he crawled on top of her.
"Again?" she lifted a blonde eyebrow. "Honestly..."
"Maybe..." he grinned. "Or maybe I'm just angling for a share of that sheet."
Huffing, she rolled over and threw the sheet over them both, mewling in annoyance at the coldness, and squeaking again when he chose to flop down on top of her.
"Mmm...what were you doing upstairs?" She asked, reaching for one of his kitty ears. He purred deeply and nuzzled against her neck.
"Had a nightmare..." he muttered, and Tash's petting action froze. He nuzzled deeper in her neck, twitching the ears in the hope of more rubs. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged tight.
"A bad one?"
"Not that kind of nightmare..." he shook his head. "I was meditating..."
She frowned. "I've told you to sleep, my love. It does you good-"
"I heard Phoenixia."
Blue eyes went wide. "What? How?"
"In my head," propping his head up on his elbows, the Librarian tapped his temple. "She was screaming...she's in pain Tashy...horrible pain..."
She wrapped her arms around him again, and he buried his face back in her neck. "We'll find her. I promise..."
She was running her fingers through his hair, and he felt a little calmer. Still even as he closed his eyes he could not shake the sound of her screaming.
"I activated Judas Phoenix...that's why I was upstairs."
Tash could not help but gasp. "You mean...?"
"Yeah..." he nodded. "I had to. Whatever's happening to her...we can't leave the Library exposed anymore. Not with Runoa and the Sovereign's out there. Judas Phoenix will lock Phoenixia out and streamline the system so that one person can use it."
Tash understood – more than that, she understood what Adrian had done. He had blocked Phoenixia from any help in the Library in order to make sure the system and everyone else in the Library was safe. If she wanted to come back, she would have to physically find the Library again. It felt like he had just cut ties with his oldest and dearest friend, and he was hating himself for it.
She ran a finger down his spine to get his attention, and she kissed him softly.
"You always do the right thing, love," she whispered. "And you can reverse it when she comes back?"
Adrian nodded, shivering as he felt a sudden chill that had nothing to do with the sub zero temperatures of space. "If she comes back..."
"She will..." Tash said firmly. "You know she will. She loves us all...even when some of the agents are annoying, whining and blowing shit up, she love us. So she will come back. The Library is her home, and we are her family." She shook her head. "I don't know where she is, or what she's trying to achieve, but she's strong – she's our Phoenixia. And she will get through it and make her way home to us."
Despite the seriousness of her tone, the Librarian managed to crack a smile. "Is that a premonition, oh wise British person?"
She snorted. "Adrian, you trained me yourself. You know I don't have enough magic for anything as cool as seeing the future. No, its true, because – as you so rightly said – I'm British and always right."
She poked him in the side, and he flopped so that he was laying completely on top of her.
"Heavy kitteh..." she pouted.
"Mmm...you love it," came the response. She huffed and would have folded her arms were his head not in the way.
"I dunno how you can possibly find me comfortable...I'm all bone."
She yelped as the Librarian rolled her over onto her side and gave her a light tap on the backside.
"Stop putting yourself down. You're gorgeous." Pulling her close he kissed her hard, provoking another mewl. "If you need proof of that, I'd be happy to show you how gorgeous..."
"Mmm...Emiushere wants to come out to play?" Tash smirked, reaching up to pet one of the kitty ears. The ear flattened out of her grasp as the Librarian blushed.
"We do not talk about Emiushere! The audience do not need to know about Emiushere!"
"The audience can kiss my pert British arse."
"I'm not the audience," came a new voice. "But can I join in anyway?"
Adrian sat up so quickly that he banged his head on the cupboard above the bed. Cursing in a multitude of languages, he sat down again rubbing his head. Tash's response was an interesting mixture of spluttering and swears.
"(a)! How the fuck did you get into my ship?" she finally managed to articulate.
The digital Mary Sue stood in the doorway, looking as innocent as the day she was born. The old abandoned holoprojectors hummed gently in the corner, almost indistinguishable from the humming of the engines.
"I was downloaded of course," came the response. "By the Library computer systems. I'm here to help." Her smile was so innocent that it made Tash feel nauseated.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" the profanity fell thick and fast from Tash's lips as she wrapped the sheet around her body again. "I don't have a help system!"
Adrian on the other hand, was paling. "Oh no..."
"Oh yes!" the Sue sounded positively gleeful. "I saw what you did with the computers Mister Librarian. For a smart man, that was a pretty elementary mistake. You didn't even stop to think what you'd be doing to me when you activated that little protocol."
"Adrian," the red faced, and more than a little peeved Society leader rounded on her boyfriend, who wished with all his heart he could melt into the mattress. "What is she talking about?"
Her voice was deadly, and the Librarian could see flames flickering in her eyes.
"Umm...its my fault," he said. "When I said I streamlined the systems with Judas Phoenix...the program must have found (a) and assumed she was one of our systems..."
"So it gave me a nice happy upgrade!" came the smirking reply.
"So she's taken Phoenixia's place?" Tash asked.
"No!" The Librarian looked horrified at the very idea. "God no! I'd never do that! She can only do a fraction of what Phoenixia can – and that's not much more than she could do before the upgrade. No, the protocol seems to have...reorganised her into the help system...she's more like one of those little paperclips in Microsoft Word."
"Oh, so she's a bloody annoyance then?" Tash said, before looking the digital Sue up and down. "I mean...more than she always has been."
"I'm just here to help, Tash."
"And that's another thing," the Society leader was on a roll. "Why is she here? My ship doesn't need a help system! I designed the bloody thing – hell I rebuilt it almost from scratch once I got it out of the Vault! I know how it works!"
Adrian winced. "It probably followed the same download paths that Phoenixia took...we downloaded her into the Manta's computer ages ago, remember, to help man the guns? Once the upgrade was complete, the Library's computer downloaded her into all the places Phoenixia served as a help function – this was one of them."
"So has this happened to every copy of her in the multiverse?" Tash couldn't help but feel that if they were all as annoying as (a) was after the upgrade, then the multiverse would not know what had hit it.
"No of course not," Adrian shook his head again. "Those copies of her that were sent out a year ago? They're still the same as they were before I activated the protocol. (a) isn't like a shared file love, where everyone can edit her and the changes are saved to every copy – each copy is independent – that's why after you came back from Minecraft, the (a) in the Library only knew about what had happened to her copy in the fandom because she'd been watching the monitors. So all of her copies in the multiverse are still as they were before the upgrade."
Tash snorted. "Good...the last thing we need is more of her when she's this irritating."
"Tada!" (a) did a twirl. "(a) your service!" she giggled at what she perceived to be a wonderful joke. "And may I say, this is one of the most delightful ships! So...mismatched! So many different technologies...Its like a piece of art. And I can't wait to help you fly her-"
"I don't need help!" Tash was red in the face, and her sheet was slipping precariously low. "This is my ship! I can pilot it blindfolded!"
"I'm sure you could dear," (a) said, with a patronising hint in her voice. "But can you drive this thing and fire the guns at the same time?"
"Yes! I've done it before!"
"Whilst not on a sugar high?"
"(a)," hiding as best he could beneath the sheet, Adrian did his best to maintain a look of authority (he failed miserably). "Would you leave, please?"
"Because we don't want you here!" Tash stated. "And believe me, as soon as we get back to the Library, I'm going to grab Emily, and we will do our best to get this copy of you out of my ship!"
"Because you're a nuisance, and I don't need you on this ship."
"Because fuck you, that's why!"
Embracing the melodrama, Tash flopped backwards on the bed and pulled the pillow over her face.
"(a)," Adrian tried again, with a little more steel in his voice. "Leave. Now."
"If you say so...oh and Tash? In my role as help system, it is my duty to inform you helpfully that you have put weight on-"
"Oh fuck off!" came the enraged reply, and with a parting giggle, (a) vanished.
"Just wonderful..." Tash muttered. "(a) getting an upgrade..."
She snuggled back against Adrian.
"It won't be that different," he soothed her. "She's still exactly the same as she was before. All this has done is given the copy of her in the Library a compulsion to be helpful to us."
As he spoke, the lights in the cabin went off with a crack.
"(a)!" Tash screeched.
"What?" came the innocent voice. "I thought having the lights off was helpful when you wanted to sleep...that is what you wanted to do, isn't it?"
The lights flicked back on, and the two Librarians huffed.
"Okay...maybe not helpful," Adrian muttered. "So all it actually did was download her into your ship."
"Well she's not staying here long," Tash muttered. "I have enough problems on this ship without a Sue worming her way around and messing around with my sy-"
She was cut off as the alarms blared throughout the ship.
"(a)!" Tash roared again, throwing off the covers and not caring anymore that she was still naked.
"It wasn't me!" the Sue protested. Adrian sat up, his kitty ears twitching.
"Well can you turn it off? We have something important that we need to get back to..." he groaned as he saw his girlfriend getting up and rummaging for her clothes. "Tashy?"
"Love I will not see my ship blown sky high just because we were both too horny to leave the bed," she stated, pulling on her jumper. "Get dressed!" she tugged on her underwear and threw the sheets around. "Where the hell are my trousers?"
She heard a chuckle and rounded on her boyfriend. He lay back against the pillows, with her jeans dangling off one finger.
"Love," Tash's attempts to look stern by placing her hands on her hips failed as Adrian looked at her silky black underwear. "Give them back."
She made a grab for them, but Adrian was quicker, tugging her into his lap and stealing a kiss. She moaned and tried to snatch them again, but he kissed along her jaw and down to her pulse, and she seemed to forget about her wayward pants.
Then Adrian stiffened, his kitty ears twitching –clearly he had heard something beyond the range of Tash's human hearing, and by the way he scrambled to push the sheets away from his legs, it had not been good.
"We'd better continue this later," he said, throwing his girlfriend her jeans. "Our visitors are not friendly."
"Sensors identify the new arrivals as an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer designated the Evisceration and an an Interdictor-Class Star Destroyer designated the Blood Claw. They are approximately five kilometres away." (a) said cheerfully over the comm. "Shall I power up the engines and get us away from here?"
Adrian and Tash shared glances, the blonde gritting her teeth and nodding her head to acknowledge Adrian's command, though the action looked like a poorly worked puppet on strings. As Tash threw on the rest of her clothes, the Librarian sprinted out the door and down the stairs in a few broad strides, able to keep his balance as the hum of the Manta's engines grew louder, warming up and gearing for use. "(a)! Plot a us a hyperspace course and get us out of here!"
"Plotting." As the Manta swung about, Adrian saw the two Imperial ships slid into view out the main viewport. Flat wedges with T-shaped bridge towers, the Star Destroyer was closer, stark white against the black of space and ominous. A little farther away was the Interdictor, sharing the same shape as its cousin, but with eight great domes, four on the top and four on the bottom, filling up the widest of the otherwise flat wedge. "Blood Claw is powering up its gravity well generators. We aren't going to be able to get of range in time."
"I figured." Adrian grimaced. "Though given those are Imperial ships, I'm surprised they haven't demanded us to-"
"We're being hailed." (a) said helpfully. "Putting it on now."
"Unidentified vessel, you are violating Dark Empire space. Power down your engines and prepare to be boarded or be destroyed."
"There it is. Glad we didn't have to break tradition on that." Adrian leaned over the back of the captain's chair, studying the scanners. "If we cut right under their bows, we should be able to avoid most of the fire and get out before-"
"Taking evasive manoeuvres." (a) interrupted as a hail of green bolts began to lance from the Evisceration and suddenly the Manta pitched violently, too fast for even Adrian's reflexes and the back of the chair caught him in the gut and drove the wind out of him.
"Bloody hell!" Tash came flying through the door to the bridge as the floor became a wall and Adrian yelped as her weight toppled him over the chair and only a quick change into a cat saved his spine from telescoping on itself. "(a), you're not helping!"
"But I saved you from being blown into atoms by laser fire." The AI Sue pointed out cheerfully as she sent the ship into a spin, too fast for the internal gravity to compensate and Tash had to hang on to the back of the chair as the ship was upside down and her foot flew out to snag her meowing boyfriend as he flailed in the air. "Sorry, I'll increase in the gravity before I do that again! Please buckle your seatbelts, though!"
"Buckle yourself in and stop piloting my ship!" As the ship rightened itself, Tash swung herself into the pilot's seat while at the same time yanking on the rest of her shirt. Yanking the restraints on, she grabbed the controls and rammed the throttle to the max while at the same punching in a set of commands. "Adrian! What the hell are we fighting? I thought you said this part of the fandom was safe!"
"It is! We're thousands of years after that story I told you about!" The cat morphed back into the Librarian and he barely had time to grab a console as his girlfriend sent her ship in a spiraling spin to avoid another barrage of fire, though it gave him a convenient view of the sensors. "They're launching starfighters! It looks like at least three squadrons of TIE Interceptors! Twenty-eight contacts and counting!"
The Librarian paled slightly as he saw the grin on his girlfriend's face. "Good! More things to make go boom!"
"Lasers are charged and missiles are primed and ready to fire at your command, my captain." (a) said almost a little too eagerly.
Tash's growl sounded like a wood chipper. That was on fire. "Annoying talking computer annoy Tashy more and annoying talking computer go boom!"
Adrian watched as laser splashed on the Manta's shield and a trio of Interceptors flew past the bridge, the bow of the Evisceration growing ever larger then viewpoint. "I'll go hop into my fighter while you blow up some stuff and regain some of your brain cells."
"Good idea. Two targets are better than one. Just be careful, love." An explosion blossomed in the viewport as a burst of fire from the Manta turned a Interceptor into scrap. "Hold on!"
"Wait, Tash, I'm not holding on to any-" That was all Adrian had time to get out before his girlfriend hauled back on the stick and sent the Manta 'up' relative to the Destroyer, the manoeuvre sending him tumbling down the access stairs into the cargo hold, his Jedi Starfighter growing way to fast into his vision for his liking.
Until the canopy hissed open and Adrian got a face full of leather as he slammed into the seat. "Canopy open and start-up checklist reads green and good to go, Librarian!" (a) told him proudly.
"Okay, so that was helpful."
"Don't get used to it!" Adrian rightened himself properly and pulled his restraints on, slipping on his helmet and tapping the side. "Tash, you reading me?"
"Loud and clear, love." The ship rocked and a series of curses created static through the comm. "Goddamn Interceptors! These things are faster than Rhia on caffeine!"
"They're meant to be. It's why they got the name." Flicking his gaze over his console, Adrian punched a button and canopy dropped down over him. "How fast can we get out of the gravity well?"
"Not fast enough. That Interdictor is keeping us from making a jump to hyperspace. And all the other directions just lead into the sun's gravity well."
"Quickest way out of the gravity well?"
"Right through those Destroyers."
"I figured." In the next second, Adrian formulated a plan, challenged it's supposed weaknesses and decided he could only use the trick once, but it would work the first time. "Tash, fly us as close as you can get to the Blood Claw. See those Interceptor debris? As you fly through them, blow the cargo bay doors."
"What on earth for!"
"My fighter is still powered down most of the way, so they shouldn't detect me. Meaning I can drift through the debris and get close enough to get under the shield, then blow one of the projectors to hell and we'll have an easier time escaping..."
"...love, that's insane."
"Han Solo did it!"
"You're not Han Solo!"
"I'm just as dashingly rogue and twice as handsome!"
"How does that even-fine, we'll do it! But don't you dare get blown up!"
As Adrian relaxed himself with a breathing exercise , he felt the Manta shift and spin and the thrum of her turrets pounding away at the enemy fighters before his stomach lurched slightly as the cargo bay doors blew out. The decompression yanked his fighter and the odds and ends of spare parts and cargo containers out and he saw stars, then a bent solar panel from a Interceptor drift across his view, followed by the Manta barrelling by at top speed, red lasers spraying out from it in nearly every direction as a four Interceptors gave a dogged chase, jinking and juking around the blasts and returning their own, though the sheer amount of fire coming off the Manta made it impossible for them to take more than the occasion potshot.
But it wasn't going to stay that way forever. As Adrian watched, Tash flipped the Manta over in a lop and then dove right for the Evisceration, swerving and dancing around the flurry of turbolaser blasts the Destroyer poured in her direction and daring the Interceptors to take shots at her while dodging friendly fire. One took the dare and lost, the laser punching through the cockpit with enough power that fighter split down the middle, then two halves drifting together by their forward moment and then went spiraling away in opposite directions. An explosion filled his view as one of them clipped a second fighter hard.
Then Tash and the fighters were out of his immediate visual range and as he started twisting around to take a look at the Blood Claw, he heard a beep in from his console and glanced down to see words scrolling up the screen.
YOU ARE APPROXIMATELY THREE METERS FROM THEIR SHIELDS. THEY DO NOT HAVE SEEMED TO HAVE NOTICED YOU YET.
He frowned. "Why are you in my ship? The computer isn't big enough to hold a copy!"
I AM COMMUNICATING WITH YOU THROUGH THE MANTA'S SYSTEMS AND TAKING THE PLACE OF YOUR ASTROMECH DROID.
"I customized this fighter! I don't need an astromech droid."
YOU ARE ONE METER AWAY FROM THEIR SHIELDS.
"Shouldn't you be doing something more useful and shooting down those Interceptors?"
AGREED. I HAVE TAKEN CONTROL OF THE MANTA'S TURRETS AND DESTORYED A FIGHTER.
TASH DOES NOT SEEM HAPPY THAT SHE CAN ONLY FIRE THE FORWARD WEAPONS NOW. AND SHE CAN CURSE IN FOUR LANGUAGES.
"Gets it from me. And yeah, I know she's not happy. Just take out those fighters, will you?"
I HAVE DESTROYED A SECOND.
"I suggest you destroy a third."
I HAVE DESTROYED A THIRD. YOU ARE UNDER THEIR SHIELDS.
"Good." Reaching for his controls, Adrian punched a few of them and then flipped the switch, his console lighting up and the hum of his engines travelling through the ship. "I suggest-"
I HAVE DESTROYED A FOURTH. I SUGGEST YOU WAIT TWO SECONDS AND THEN FIRE ALL WEAPONS.
"I could figure that, (a)."
I HAVE DESTROYED A FIFTH.
"Knock off the running tally, okay?" Adrian watched as one of the gravity wells slid into his cross-hairs, the computer beeping softly and then becoming a sharp tone as it acquired a missile lock on it. Thumbing the trigger, he watched a pair of blue jets roared forth from his fighter, followed a stream of laser fire.
I HAVE DESTROYED A SIXTH.
"Knock it off." The lasers hit first, stitching an explosive line of holes across the dome's metal, debris flying out and then torpedos hit a second later, actually punching through the dome before detonating. The metal of the generator cracked across part of its surface, then blew outwards in a fireball that threw out debris and blackened the surface of the Blood Claw around the dome. "That should do it."
I HAVE DESTROYED A SEVENTH.
"Didn't I stop that?" Adrian punched the throttle as the space around him lit up with lasers and whipped his craft around, wincing as near misses splashed across the shields. Jinking around, he swept up and away from the massive ship an arc. A glance at his sensors revealed that the gravity well projected by the Interdictor had lost a quarter of its mass and that meant significantly less space to cross before they could escape. And it also showed fighters boiling out from the ships hanger, racing towards him.
I AM TEACHING MYSELF TO MOCK YOU.
"You're already the GPS from hell, if you ask me." Adrian muttered and flicked his weapons over to missiles as he tightened his arc to send him right towards the wave of oncoming fighters. Not waiting for the computer to signal a lock, he launched one missile and then a second before switching to lasers and spraying fire to port.
And a glance at his computer screen showed a little emoticon face laughing at him.
Adrian twitched his stick, jerking and jockeying his fighter around as the TIEs opened up on him, his shield flaring as lasers struck but they held. His first missile hit the lead Interceptor and exploded, but the second went wide as the fighters scattered to avoid it, veering in the direction that would keep out of the friendly fire from the Blood Claw...and then a second one exploded as it flew right into the barrage of lasers he had fired earlier.
He laughed as he blew past them and then hit the rudder, banking in a sharp turn that Interceptors were only a second behind in making. Twin bolts blew another TIE to dust and then Adrian punched the throttle, blasting between a pair of them. His Jedi Starfighter was the Interceptors' predecessors and was normally a few decades out of date. But he and Phoenixia had modified his to be more than a match in speed and agility to the newer craft. And with the added advantage of shields, he was could dance with TIEs all day.
But it was rapidly become a pipe dream as a turbolaser bolt clipped his bow and Adrian reflexively jerked with the hit, sweeping under the belly of the Interdictor and then swore, diving 'away' from the ship as he nearly ran into a new flight of TIEs being launched from the belly hanger. "Love, I'm really starting to hate this neighbourhood. Let's get the hell out of Dodge!"
"I'm all for it!" As Adrian banked up and swerved around another blaze of bolts, he saw the Manta swoop down to join him, her guns blazing and leaving a small trail of explosions in her wake as TIEs fell victim to accuracy only a computer could give. But for every TIE that fell, three more boiled out of the hangers to replace them. "Think that little tin can can keep up with my baby?"
"Please. I'll in the shower, using the last of your Lush by the time you make it back in that old clunker." Slamming the rudder, he whipped his craft around and then pumped all the power he could spare into the engines even the Manta blazed past him so fast it was almost a blur.
Then he accelerated and the larger ship stopped receding into the distance and actually began to get larger in his viewscreen. Lasers flew past and struck his aft shields, but they held and in another moment or two, he'd be out of the Interceptor's range and a moment or so after that, out of the range of the Interdictor.
At least, he would have been had his ship suddenly lurched and he banged his head on the canopy. "Son of a bitch!" Thankful that he had least put his helmet on, Adrian felt a sinking feeling as he saw his fighter's speed slowly reverse direction and the engines began to strain as they struggled to keep him moving forwards. "Shit..."
"They've got me in a tractor beam, love. I don't think I can l just fly out of here." The ship rocked as more laser fire landed and a indicator began to flash softly at him, showing him that his shields were at less than fifty percent power. "And I don't think they're interested in taking prisoners, either."
"Hang on!" In front of him, the shape that was the Manta looped backwards and began to grow larger. "I'll come get you out!"
"Not going to happen." Adrian thumped the armrest in frustration. "If you fly between me and the Interdictor, you'll just get caught in the beam instead of me! The Manta doesn't have enough mass to escape the beam's pull at this range!"
"I can at least take out those fighters!"
"And then the Destroyer's turbolasers will blow you out of the sky! Look, just keep the fighters off me. I'll summon a door in above my fighter and eject and let the momentum carry me through!"
"Bollocks, no! That's not going to work and you know it!"
"Well, what do you-
"Be prepared to roll and then go port at full throttle." (a)'s voice cheerfully interrupted them. "Object with sufficient mass arriving in three...two...one..."
"Wait, what? (a), how are you-" Then Adrian saw a swirl of light open aft of his fighter and a flash of white over the edge of the canopy and then his fighter was blasting forwards it was suddenly free of the tractor beam and only his kitty reflexes allowed him to comply with (a)'s instructions, lasers flashing through the space he had just occupied. "What the hell!"
He banked around and twitched at the massive white vehicle that was tearing through space. "You summoned the Phoenix Zord!"
"Yeo!" (a) reported proudly. "And it's mass was enough break the beam and not get caught in it. And it's armor and shields are enough to withstand turbolaser fire." As if to prove her point, a full barrage slammed into the Zord and it barely seemed to notice.
"How did you even summon it! You can't make a library door and no way you get a plothole that big enough to...oh, right..." Adrian buried his face in a palm. "Power Rangers Zords arrive in the same manner that Optimus Prime's trailer vanishes...conveniently."
"I have a good sense of timing, actually." The AI Sue's voice sounded smug.
"I'm evicting you from my Zord when I get home, (a)!"
"Adrian! We've got something dropping out of hyperspace on our exit vector!"
Adrian snapped his head over in time to space distort and ripple, a massive shape suddenly being 'there' where only empty space had been before. It was shaped like the Destroyer behind him, but it's colour was a dark gray-blue and it was many times larger than the Evisceration. He glanced at his sensors, but it was only to confirm what he already knew. "That's a Super Star Destroyer..."
"Now what are we supposed to do! That thing is eight kilometres long and it's already launching fighters! We'll never be able to get past it and jump to hyperspace!" The Manta looped around the Phoenix Zord and fell into formation behind it, Adrian pulling up alongside.
Adrian glanced at his sensors and bit his lip in thought. The Star Destroyer and the Interdictor behind and sealing an exit that way, the Super Star Destroyer coming up along their only exit vector and at least one hundred and forty-four fighters- a full wing- of TIEs coming up on their tails and despite the Society's craft superior speeds, the only way to go was straight into the sun and so they'd have to loop around and run right into the oncoming craft.
His head snapped up. "Tash, we're going to fly through the cloud between the sun halves!"
"WHAT! ARE YOU BLOODY MAD!"
Wincing at her yell, he continued to talk. "I would be if we were flying normal Star Wars craft. But these aren't normal craft. The Phoenix Zord can take flying directly through a sun and I modified the Manta and my starfighter with similar armor. It's not perfect, but we're only flying between them and not in them. If we do it at max speed, we should just make it."
"'Just make it'?"
"It's either risk melting your baby or getting turned into scrap."
"Fine, but I don't know what I fell in love with such a crazy man."
"It was the ears." Adrian glanced up at the rapidly approaching cloud of gasses. "(a), take the Phoenix Zord and go first. You have more mass than either of us and should provide a wake for us that'll make a bit easier on us."
"I got it." The massive war machine accelerated ahead of the pair, who dropped neatly into line behind it. "Does this mean I get to-"
She sniffed over the comm. "Let me helpfully inform you that your girlfriend needs to lose some-"
"Finish that sentence and I'll delete you so fast you won't even have time to be melodramatic about it!"
The cloud now filled all of the canopy viewport save what was taken up by the shape of the Zord ahead and warning gauges and lights began to creep into the red, but he ignored them. The cloud poofed out as the Zord flew into it, leaving a phoenix-shaped hole that had just started to close as he blazed in after it.
It was a deadly race, his shields sparking and crackling as the gasses began to flow back into the gap and the Phoenix Zord wasn't even visible in front of him. His sensors and comm were nothing but static. Any slower and he'd be swallowed by the cloud. The shields couldn't keep that away and despite the upgraded armor, the fact his temperature gauge was well past the redline was starting to tell him he may have underestimated the ferocity of the maelstrom.
Then suddenly it was gone and there something massive and metallic occupying all of his forward view, his and Tash's yells of surprise coming through the comm at the same time.
"I suggest you both pull up hard." (a)'s voice rang out cheerfully.
"NOT HELPING, (a)!" Both Leaders yelled back and Adrian wrenched his fighter up and to the left, blazing past the object so close he felt that he could have reached out and touched it. Once he was clear, he chopped back on the throttle and lopped around in a spiral of the object to join the Phoenix Zord, which was hovering above it. "Tash, you okay?"
"I think I scrapped some paint off my baby...Emily is going to be pissed..." The Manta sailed up to join the Zord and Adrian was a moment behind. "What is this thing? And where are we?"
"We're still between the sun halves...but this is a calm spot, like the eye of a hurricane...no..." Adrian glanced up to see the maelstrom roiling above him. "Like a giant sphere in the middle of all this, dozens and dozens of kilometres across."
"It has to be to hold this...what, I don't even...love, it looks like a giant sword!"
She was right. From where the ships were slowly circling, it looked like an sword with the blade pointing down, except it had a bulbous end like the other points on it. And it was massive. Even the Phoenix Zord looked small in comparison to it and Adrian was willing to be that it would take several Super Star Destroyers to make up the length from end of the thing's guard to the other. "This isn't right, Tash. I know Star Wars backwards and forwards. There's nothing like this in it. No one has the kind of power to simply make a calm spot in the middle of a sun and then build something like this, even with the Force."
"Signs are starting to suggest we've got a Sue or several, then."
"Yeah." Adrian sighed as he saw more contacts appear on his sensor board. "Whatever this thing is, it's launching starfighters. Let's get the hell out of here and we can figure out what to do later. Just grab all the scans you can of it."
As the three ships banked back into line, the Phoenix Zord taking the lead, Adrian jerked as pain shot through his head and a long, cackling laughter that was definitely female echoed in his head softy and he swore there was a darker chuckle behind it. And right behind the laughter, a sick sense of darkness and dread crept down his spine.
"Love? What's wrong? If you don't hurry, we're going to get caught by those fighters."
"Oh, right." Adrian punched the throttle back to maximum again and once again plunged through the maelstrom behind the Zord.
A light show danced across the shields as the dense gasses pressed at them, but he barely noticed as he simply kept his ship in a straight line. That laughter and pain...the same pain he had felt when he tried to get access to his memories of Phoenixia and that dark feeling still hadn't left him...
His grip tightened almost painfully on the control stick. Whatever was happening to Phoenixia and the appearance of this mysterious station were definitely connected. And no matter what it took, he was going to find out exactly what secrets this entire mess was holding even if he had to peel it apart bit by bit with his bare hands.
Then they were out of the other side of the sun and his console almost immediately beeped as soon as it was functional again. "This all the sensor data we got?"
"Yeah..." Tash's voice sounded weak. "Please tell me it's wrong..."
Adrian felt the dread deepen in him as he scanned the data and he gulped softly. "I wish I could, love..but given the sensors on the Manta and the Zord, there's no way it's wrong..."
Adrian about echoed the sentiment. The scanners had picked up energy readings from the station and done a comparison to all other energy readings in the Library's massive databanks. It had found a single match.
"That station is capable of generating plotholes. Ones big enough to fly ships through. And like a Sword of Damocles, it's just waiting to fall on us all..."